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Time running short for health coverage

Health care advocates haven’t given up on efforts to pressure Gov. Mike Pence into expanding Medicaid eligibility for Hoosiers, as the Affordable Care Act prescribed. Last week, the National Association of Social Workers-Indiana and Hoosiers for a Common Sense Health Plan delivered petitions to Pence’s office urging him to expand coverage. The Indiana Coalition for Human Services is holding a Statehouse rally today to deliver the same message.

The continuing uncertainty serves no one well, but some of the nearly 880,000 Hoosiers without health insurance coverage could eliminate their own uncertainty by enrolling under the Indiana Health Insurance Marketplace.

Pence met Friday with Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, to work out a deal to instead use the Healthy Indiana Plan, in which low-income residents contribute at least 2 percent of income. Concessions the HHS leader granted the Republican governor of Iowa offer some hope that the federal government was willing to negotiate.

That Sebelius would allow Hoosiers earning below the poverty line to pay for insurance benefits, however, seems as unlikely as Pence changing his mind on Medicaid expansion.

The Indiana Hospital Association, in the meantime, is working to inform uninsured Hoosiers of the March 21 deadline for enrolling in the federal marketplace.

About 48,000 Indiana residents have enrolled in one of the four plans offered through the Indiana site, which is operated by HHS.

“Hospitals and other statewide groups are looking for ways to educate people as we approach the final weeks of enrollment,” said Doug Leonard, president of the Indiana Hospital Association. “When more people have access to health care coverage, we will improve the overall health and well-being of our state.”

For coverage to begin by April 1, Hoosiers must enroll by March 15. Enrollment during the period of March 16-31 will delay coverage until May 1. The next enrollment window doesn’t begin until Nov. 15.

Much of the angst over delayed or missed coverage could have been avoided if Pence had agreed to expand Medicaid eligibility to cover more of the working poor. Obamacare offered all states the option to make Medicaid available to residents earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty leve, $11,490 for an individual and $23,550 for a family of four.

For the states that took advantage of the offer, including Kentucky and Michigan, the federal government is paying 100 percent of the cost of all new enrollees for the first three years.

The Indiana General Assembly could have intervened but took a pass. New Albany Rep. Ed Clere offered House Bill 1309, which included some intriguing approaches to bridge the Pence/HHS stalemate. It never emerged from the House’s Public Health committee.

We hope the meeting between the governor and health secretary produces an acceptable agreement for both sides, but Hoosiers without coverage shouldn’t wait and see. Get covered today.